An investigation into how elderly persons perceive elder abuse.
Splinter, Audrey Patricia
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The international concern about human rights, gender equality, domestic violence and the increase in the aging populations has brought elder abuse into the public focus. Elder abuse is a complex, multi-faceted health, social, criminal justice, international public health and human rights issue. The widely divergent and varying definitions is a controversial problem to understanding elder abuse. The elderly have been excluded from national gender-based programs on domestic violence and the abuse of women and children. In South Africa victims of elder abuse are often physically and or cognitively unable to speak for themselves which necessitates that the public be empowered and trained to become advocates for the aged. Lachs & Pillemer ( 2004 : 1265 ) states that "the physical and psychological impairement of elder persons could be predisposing factors for elder abuse ". Statistical evidence on the incidence and prevalence rates of elder abuse is lacking as elderly persons are reluctant to identify care givers for fear of abandonment, retaliation and being left destitute ( Lachs & Pillemer, 2004 : 1265 ). Despite the Bill of Rights as set out in the South African Constitution and the Older Persons Act, No. 13 of 2006 which was developed to deal with the empowerment and protection of elder persons and promote and maintain their status, rights, safety, security and well being the abuse of elder person continues to occur ( Older Persons Act, No. 13 of 2006 ). This qualitative research study is allied with the phenomenological approach in an attempt to understand elder person’s perception, viewpoints and perspectives from their lived experiences and personal lives. Three (3) focus group discussions and eighteen (18) one-on-one interviews were conducted with elder persons living in the suburbs of Cape Town. Data from participants were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim before an inductive analysis lead to the emergence of broad themes and patterns. The main findings of the research study concluded that elderly persons were informed but not empowered about financial, emotional and verbal abuse. The abuse of the elder person in old age homes also featured prominently. The findings of the research study can be used to provide education and empower elder persons and the general public on specific aspects related to elder abuse which are : Financial, Emotional, Verbal and the abuse by staff at old age homes. These findings could be utilized by health and social welfare advocates and organisations who offer community educational and development programs to advocate against elder abuse.